Research centre’s business opens
Havelock North’s Landcare Centre opened a business yesterday, beginning a new commercial era for Crown research institutes.
The small business, Sirtrack Ltd, produces electronic tracking equipment for use on wildlife, humans, oceanographic cables and for search and rescue.
The Minister of Crown Research Institutes, Simon Upton, was at the centre in Goddards Lane yesterday to open Sirtrack’s new ofﬁce and workshop.
Mr Upton said Sirtrack’s commercial success meant more money would be ploughed back into other important research.
The new Crown research institute structure had given the centre the commercial freedom to develop Sirtrack that the old system would not have allowed, he said.
Hawke’s Bay was lucky to have such innovative and sophisticated technology being developed at its research institute, he said.
Sirtrack’s business manager and ecologist Dave Ward, who has been involved in tracking possums since the late 1960s, said he never expected the radio tracking venture to grow so large.
In the coming year he expects to sell “hundreds” of devices, with about 80 per cent of them exported.
The devices cost between $200 and $5000. Mr Ward would not disclose how much money the company was likely to make in the next 12 months.
The small two-gram transmitters are less than 5 per cent of an animal’s body weight, and have been adapted for use on kiwis, weta, crocodiles and fish.
The sensors could also monitor behaviour, activity, posture and temperature. As well as tracking animals, the equipment was used to locate missing people and had saved lives, he said.
Sirtrack hoped to expand use of the devices to the elderly and intellectually handicapped.
Sirtrack has five full-time and three part-time staff who package transmitters from their Havelock North homes and workshops.
Photo caption – Sirtrack business manager Dave Ward, left, and the Minister of Crown research institutes, Simon Upton, with the tracking devices used on possums or wild cats.